DPR’s Ever Forward Virtual Career and Educational Programming

This article is included in the Great Things: Issue 5 edition of the DPR Newsletter.

Starting the year off strong, DPR Construction’s Community Initiatives (CI) teams continued moving forward in the vision of ‘building possibilities for the under-resourced' through one of our three pillars of skills-based volunteering, construction and career education for youth.

The educational programming, hosted in conjunction with partner nonprofits, aims to increase the confidence of economically under-resourced youth. These curated workshops and activities help students expand their expectations for their futures by introducing them to careers in the construction industry.

“DPR’s team is a constant with our organization, always creating innovative workshops to provide our youth and keep them thinking about their futures and career goals,” said Esther Garnier, career development coordinator for HANDY, a South Florida nonprofit. “DPR’s programming evolves with HANDY’s many needs, and we are grateful to work with such a dedicated partner.”

“Construction is a unique industry offering career opportunities for those who may or may not possess a four-year degree,” said DPR’s philanthropy leader, Diane Shelton. “In working with our partners, our goal is to expand students’ horizons of potential careers and build possibilities for their futures by helping them have a more equitable starting point.”

Despite the need to pivot from in-person events to virtual programming, DPR teams across the country have continued to organize educational and career-centric sessions.

A girl takes notes during a virtual event with attendees on a laptop screen

Read more about one/some of the events held to date:

ACT-SO Program – NAACP (February-April)

DPR team members participated for the first time as competition judges for the NAACP’s “Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics” (ACT-SO) Program, an achievement program for Black high school youth, involving weekly workshops and a competition held at the end for students to present their final projects.

Depending on which of the 32 topics students signed up for, DPR volunteers offered mentorship for subject matters ranging from STEM to humanities to culinary arts.

“DPR has always put an emphasis on helping employees reach their full potential, so it’s been amazing to partner with a program that holds the same values for their youth,” said Renata Jackson, a DPR project accountant who helped organize DPR’s role with supporting the program.

Whether or not students make it to the end of the program as one of the winners of the local or national competition, they leave with a greater sense of confidence in their abilities and an eagerness to advance in their education.

“After 30 years of working with this program, you find that the biggest takeaway for our students is a boost in their self-worth,” says Sundra Davis, the Chair of the NAACP ACT-SO Fort Worth Branch.

In addition to volunteering, DPR Construction also donated scholarships to the winners of the local competition in Fort Worth, TX.

Quote from Erin Knight featured in this blog post

“She Builds" Women in Construction Career Panel - Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida (March)

To celebrate “Women in Construction” week, DPR held a career panel for youth involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. An all-female group of DPR panelists and moderators shared their career journeys, discussed career paths within the construction industry and exploded myths about women working in the trades.

“Providing exposure to young boys and girls about the many career paths one can take empowers them to dream big,” shares DPR’s CI Champion and SPW preconstruction/project manager, Erin Knight, who helped organize the event.

“Regardless of education level, whether they attend a technical school, community college or received a four-year degree, there is something for everyone in the trades,” says Knight.

CI Champion and office coordinator Meaghan Scott, who co-facilitated the event with Knight, said, “Not only do these panels educate on career paths, but they showcase DPR’s culture of empowering its employees and caring about women in the industry.”

DPR’s “Who Wants to Be a Bellionaire” - Girls Empowerment Network (March)

DPR piloted its new CI game, “Who Wants to Be a Bellionaire” with 20 Girls Empowerment Network (GEN) youth in Austin, TX. A long-standing pillar in the community, GEN’s mission is to ignite the power in girls by teaching them the skills to thrive through curated programs designed to increase each girl’s self-efficacy.

Inspired by the popular game “Animal Crossing,” this hands-on workshop empowered the girls to use their creativity and critical thinking skills to build a structure with supplies provided by DPR prior to their virtual event. This interactive CI game is now available for DPR team members to facilitate for nonprofits nationwide.

DPR’s Angie Weyant shared that although this is not the first time DPR has partnered with GEN, hosting events in a remote environment has its advantages. “GEN’s reach has grown exponentially since going virtual now that more youth are able to join in from their homes,” says Weyant.

On top of having a fun activity, students were also able to learn about the construction industry from DPR team members.

“DPR team members from different locations outside the Austin area jumped in to support as well,” Weyant said, “so it was great having the girls meet and interact with professionals in the field with various backgrounds.”

Quote fromLina Nageondelestang featured in this blog post

“She Builds Like a Boss” Event – HANDY (March)

DPR’s South Florida team partnered with local nonprofit HANDY, for a virtual mentorship event called “She Builds Like a Boss.” HANDY offers an array of customized educational, personal development and economic self-sufficiency programs for youth and adults.

DPR CI Leadership Group member, SSG lead and HANDY board member, Lina Nageondelestang, helped facilitate this unique, virtual career event together with several DPR Volunteers and with support from five industry panelists from DPR, Foundry Commercial and the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority.

“It takes a lot for these girls to feel like they belong in a room, but we strive to make them feel welcomed, give them a sense of importance and remind that each one of them matters,” said Nageondelestang.

In addition to the panel, DPR organized a “Blazer Drive” to supply each of the “She Builds” attendees with a professional blazer to add to their wardrobe, hoping to inspire them to dream big about their future.

Esther Garnier, HANDY’s Career Development Coordinator shared: “I could immediately see a shift in their attitudes before and after the event knowing they are fully capable of achieving whatever they set their mind to.”

Quote from Nirupama Kotcharlakota featured in this blog post

“Virtual Career Day” Event – Oasis (April)

DPR’s Edison, NJ office hosted a “Virtual Career Day” for teenage boys involved with Oasis, a local nonprofit supporting women and children through educational and social service programs. During this hour-long virtual career day, a DPR superintendent, office manager, project engineers, and human resources team members educated the boys on different career opportunities in the construction industry.

“Our goal with this career day was to have an open dialogue about the lucrative and diverse options within construction that students may not be aware of, even if their interests are varied,” said Nirupama Kotcharlakota, a DPR senior project engineer who co-coordinated the event.

The event covered multiple topics such as virtual design and construction, preconstruction, DPR’s jobsite safety practices, and roles within DPR and the trades.

“DPR takes the industry forward with curated CI events offering guidance from professionals in the field,” said DPR project engineer Brandon Bell, who co-coordinated with Kotcharlakota.

Bell said, “If we want to create a positive impact on future generations, collaborating with organizations who share our passion for uplifting under-resourced youth bring us one step closer to being ‘integral and indispensable’ community partners.”

ACE Mentor Program (Fall-Summer)

DPR offices company-wide participated again as mentors for the ACE Mentor Program of America (ACE), which introduces thousands of high school students to professions in architecture, engineering, and construction through hands-on projects with professionals in the field.

“DPR and ACE are both invested in improving the future for all,” said Scott Johnson, a first-time ACE Mentor and DPR layout superintendent in the northwest. “By participating in this mentorship program, DPR is showcasing our commitment to the future of the students, the communities in which they live and the future of construction.”

Image depicting a virtual career day

Johnson shared that his role in the program is to provide students with access to career paths they may not have been exposed to, providing real-life examples and activities on what it is like to coordinate a project from the first phases of design to close out.

“We work with students on proposed projects, share our expertise, and show that there are plenty of options within construction,” says Johnson. “Whether it’s with a degree, supporting from the office, or going the apprenticeship route into the field, there is something for everyone; your background, race, ethnicity and gender don’t disqualify you from success.”